Michelle Kung
January 28, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Set in modern Munich, Michael Kruger’s novel, The Cello Player is narrated by Gyorgy, a middle-aged composer who writes TV jingles while struggling to complete an opera about the doomed Russian poet Mandelstam. The cranky musician’s life is disrupted — or saved? — by the arrival of Judit, a temperamental young cellist and daughter of an ex-flame from his past. Judit triggers Gyorgy’s nostalgia for a time when Eastern-bloc artists were tired of ”too much revolution, too few string quartets” and appreciated art for art’s sake. Deftly translated from the German by Andrew Shields, Kruger’s wryly delivered tale will tantalize your inner academic with its often esoteric subject matter, and then win you over with its elegant storytelling.

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